Want to Change the World? Stop Trying to Change Your Body

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We’re only halfway through 2020, but it feels like this year’s been at least a decade long, doesn’t it?

Here are just a few of the major events that occurred in the last six months:

The United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union.

There were floods in Indonesia.

Fires in Australia.

Locusts in East Africa.

COVID-19 became a global pandemic.

America’s Supreme Court ruled to prohibit LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace.

And Black Lives Matter protests took place in all 50 U.S. states, more than 700 U.S. cities, and at least 17 countries – making it the largest civil rights movement in history.

What else could we possibly fit into this historic year?

How about:

The U.S. Presidential election

Uncertain future for schools, workplaces, and public spaces

The potential for a second wave of coronavirus

Are you feeling prepared for all of that?

Me neither.

But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s to expect the unexpected.

OK, maybe I’ve learned two things. And here’s the second: World change is a long game. We need strategy, and we need stamina.

While it’s true that we can’t know all that lies ahead of us and much of life is outside of our control, there are very tangible and practical ways to show up, speak up, and make a difference in the world.

We can do our part to cultivate reform in our countries and communities when it comes to the causes we believe in.

But, it’s tough to meet humanitarian, environmental, social, or political needs on an empty stomach.

That’s because long-term change doesn’t happen through momentary votes, protests, or social media posts alone.

Those things are a start. But lasting transformation takes more. Facilitating justice work and fighting for a better society requires the consistent and intentional devotion of our time, energy, and money too.

Unfortunately, when the diet industry is sucking those resources from us in our fervent pursuit of thinness, we’re unable to “be the change [we] wish to see in the world.”

We can’t even be ourselves.

THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF DISORDERED EATING AND EXERCISE

Undereating and over-exercising are stressful experiences.

While you might consider intermittent fasting, non-stop HIIT workouts, and calorie counting to be reasonable solutions for your body image struggles (they’re not), your body considers them dangerous threats.

To your body, these practices are recognized as starvation, malnourishment, and energy deficiency. And in time, they’ll lead to several disturbing physical and emotional symptoms. Symptoms that often serve to disrupt and distract from your personal convictions and passion for revolution.

Engaging in disordered eating and exercise behaviors has been known to cause:

●       Difficulty Concentrating

●       Emotional Instability

●       Withdrawal from Social Activities

●       Depression and Anxiety

●       Hormone Dysregulation

●       Heart and Kidney Damage

●       Muscle Wasting

●       Electrolyte Imbalance

●       Low Blood Pressure

●       And Other Health Conditions

Apathy and physical deterioration aren’t tools of reformation. They’re hindrances to it.

Dieting is antithetical to world changing.

And nothing evidences the indifference and frailty that results from dieting more than the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

THE MINNESOTA STARVATION EXPERIMENT

My friend Chris, at Seven Health, has two great podcast episodes discussing the details of this significant University of Minnesota study conducted by Dr. Ancel Keys (HERE and HERE). So, I’ll just give you the basics, and you can check out Real Health Radio to learn more.

In 1944, 36 conscientious objectors of the Second World War became part of Keys’ experiment on starvation’s psychological and physiological effects. It was a chance for researchers to learn more about what happens to a person (mentally and physically) during starvation and subsequent refeeding.

And before you assume that this intentional starvation was drastically different from the meal plans, apps, and “nutrition” guides touted as health-enhancing today, it’s important to note that the men in this study were eating more calories than most modern-day diets recommend.

Prior to the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, subjects were deemed to be in good mental and physical health. But after months of restricted eating and forced exercise, that all changed.

The men experienced significant decreases in strength, stamina, body temperature, heart rate, and sex drive. They became obsessed with food – dreaming, fantasising, reading, and talking about it regularly.

Their fixation on eating led to a decline in other areas of life and manifested in fatigue, irritability, depression, and decreased mental ability. Researchers observed indifference and boredom when it came to personal interests, romance, and socialising.

Many of the subjects stopped laughing and lost their will to advocate for themselves or engage appropriately with the world around them.

It wasn’t until years later, after rehabilitation, that they returned to being fully engaged in their lives and active in their communities.

Proof that it’s nearly impossible to prioritize world change and weight loss simultaneously.

DIETING IS AN AFFRONT TO BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS

Need another reason to call it quits on disordered eating and other attempts at getting smaller?

Diet mentality and fatphobia stand in direct opposition to anti-racism, liberation, equity, and inclusion.

Intentional weight loss and restricted eating are rife with anti-Blackness, anti-fatness, and ableism.

So then, if you care about justice for marginalized people socially and politically, it’s essential to dismantle the oppressive beliefs and behaviors you ascribe to personally.

Genuine concern for the wellbeing of others looks like acknowledging that discrimination (on account of race, gender identity, sexuality, size, ability status, or other lived experience) is a major determinant of health. And then working tirelessly to irradicate harmful biases – internally and environmentally too.

When you begin the challenging (but rewarding) work of deconstructing your relationship with food and body, you also chip away at those greater cultural issues. Transforming first yourself and later, the spaces you frequent, relationships you nurture, and the world you inhabit.

And though healing should never stop at you, it’s one hell of a good start.

Rather than succumbing to shame regarding your present participation in diet culture and fitness fanaticism, why not use what you’ve learned about its insidious roots and rationale to motivate you?

Let your values and commitment to the welfare of all humanity inspire you towards personal recovery. And then, let that recovery empower you to actively and relentlessly pursue freedom for all.

If you’re looking for some great reads to support both your individual care and social responsibility, here are a few suggestions from my bookshelf:

The Body Is Not an Apology

You Have the Right to Remain Fat

Body Respect

Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fatphobia

Anti-Diet

Happy reading and revolting.

THE REVOLUTION REQUIRES ALL OF US

The truth is, disordered eating and exercise are social justice sedatives.

If diet culture can keep us entirely consumed with the pursuit of thinness, beauty, and youth –

If it can keep us agitated, overwhelmed, depressed, distracted, and exhausted –

If it can keep us numb and ashamed –

Then it can keep us silent.

And oppressions of all kinds can continue undisputed and unhindered, to the benefit of the very systems and industries that perpetuate them.

That’s why recovery is about more than just you; it’s an act of social and political resistance.

It’s a personal journey that paves the way to a powerful collective impact, if you let it.

So, what do you say we stop trying to change our bodies and start changing the world instead?

Because the revolution requires all of you.

It requires all of me.

It requires all of us.

Are you feeling inspired to stop the tireless pursuit of body change and prioritize world change instead? Are you ready to take action for the causes you believe in with a nourished belly, an energized body, and an engaged mind? If so, I can help. I’m here to guide you towards recovery with personal coaching and powerful resources for ending dieting and disordered eating, improving body image, and increasing self-care and compassion. My programs will support your healing so you can best support others. For more information on how we can work together CLICK HERE.

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